Category Archives: Surface Pro

newsurfacepro5

New Surface Pro 5 2017 with 4,096-level Pen

newsurfacepro5

New Surface Pro 5 sports pen with 4,096 levels and tilt

new surface pro 5 pen

New Surface Pen for Surface Pro 5, with increased levels, tilt, and a rubber eraser

Microsoft has now readied the new Surface Pro 5, which is actually just called the Surface Pro, for release (so I guess it’s time to party like it’s 2013, when the first Surface Pro came out). The new SP is available for preorder. This updated 2-in-1 tablet/laptop has some very interesting offerings for the art crowd.

The biggest difference is the new Surface Pen, which has 4x more levels of pressure sensitivity, making it 4,192, like the new Lenovo Active Pen 2. It also has tilt including shading. It will have the usual button that opens OneNote and other apps. The pen requires an AAAA battery.

This isn’t the Wacom-Microsoft pen we’ve been hearing about (at least, no one has said there’s any Wacom connection is so far). Microsoft is still going with N-trig.

The new pen also still has a rubberish eraser, and hopefully will still have the nib kit with a variety of nibs with different points and textures in a nib kit, like the current Surface Pen.

If the new pen sounds like the Apple Pencil, it underlines how Microsoft sees the iPad Pro as the rival to this version of the Surface Pro. Indeed, the upgraded pen may tilt the scales for artists frustrated with the iPad Pro’s inability to use desktop programs and inefficient file organization.

I’ll have to try out the new pen before knowing if it’s really as sensitive as Apple Pencil. Up to now, I haven’t been that big a fan of the Surface Pen for drawing, but this new one sounds like a different ballgame.

Surface Dial works on Surface Pro 5

surface dial

Surface Dial

Though the new Surface Pro “5” doesn’t look all that different from the Surface Pro 4, it will also work with the puckish Surface Dial, which brings up an array of on-screen menus aimed at designers.

Now, whether or not the Dial will be of much use on a small screen is hard to say. I’m a believer in the potential of the Dial, but right now it doesn’t seem like a must-have accessory. It makes more sense on the gloriously large Surface Studio.

Surface Pro 4 vs. new Surface Pro 5 2017

The pen is the biggest difference. The old Surface Pen had 1,024 levels and no tilt. This one will have tilt for shading; it’s unclear what else they mean by tilt, since they only mention shading. The Apple Pencil both has angle sensitivity with the tip and shading with the side.

Windows Ink apps include Sketchable, Plumbago, Mental Canvas, Drawboard PDF, and StaffPad. Of course, you can use the pen with any program, including Adobe Creative Cloud.

The pen will have backwards compatibility with all the Surfaces going back to Surface 3, including the Surface Book and Studio. It won’t work on the earlier Surface 2 and original Surface Pro, which were Wacom-penabled. It’s safe to assume it will only deliver previous levels of pressure sensitivity on those.

New Surface hinge makes kickstand more adjustable

Another aspect that’s different and consequential for digital artists is that the attached kickstand will go lower then previous ones. The updated hinge is deeper. The angle is designed to work better for those using the pen. So now the pen use is built into the design.

The new design also has more rounded edges and is “softer,” more Apple-like.

Like its Surface cousins, it comes in configurations of Intel 7th Gen. M3, i5, and i7.

The PixelSense screen of the Surface Pro 2017 is the same size and resolution as the PixelSense SP4–sharp, but not 4K.

The company says the new Surface Pro will get up to 13.5 hours of battery life. That reflects a considerably stronger processor. The processors are now Kaby Lake (7th gen) not Skylake (6th gen). Photoshop rendering and video processing should work faster on this.

The new Surface Pro 5 pen is sold separately, as are the Dial and Type Cover. (The Surface 4 included the Surface Pen.)

The new Surface Pro’s graphics cards will be Intel HD Graphics 615 for the M3, 620 for the i5, and Iris Plus Graphics 640 for the i7. These are next-generation and a bit faster.

The high-res PixelSense screen will be 10-pt. multitouch, 12.3″ diagonal, with a 3:2 aspect ratio, which we like.

The keyboard is upgraded with improved key travel.

Each model will weigh about 1.7 lbs or 766-786g, making it easy to carry around.

Microsoft is talking about how it goes from “laptop” mode to “studio” mode to “tablet” mode.

Apple may be getting nervous about the new Surface Pro 5. On the other hand, perhaps the competition will spur Apple to make a real laptop or even a monitor with an active digitizer.

Microsoft does plan to make a Surface Pro with LTE.

You can see or order the new Surface Pro (5) at Microsoft. Or see/order it on Amazon

See our article on the 10 top tablet PCs for art.

Read our homepage article to learn all about drawing tablets.

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Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2 to be released … sooner or later

Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2 coming this year, or next–sharper screen, longer battery life

microsoft windows

WIndows of the mind

Rumor has it that Microsoft will soon be unveiling the Surface Pro 5, as early as May 2016.

There’s limited info right now, but basically it sounds like a snazzier version of the Surface Pro 4. While the SP 4 ran about five hours with video, the SP 5 could get up to 7. That’s pretty good for a machine that’s slated to have a sharp-as-a-razor 4k display. The screen will not be any larger, though, you’ll still need to get the Surface Book if you want a larger screen (13.5 in. vs. 12.3 in.).

The Surface Pro 5 will either continue using Intel’s Skylake processor, or move on to the next iteration, the Kaby Lake.

Supposedly, the pen will be rechargeable, a welcome trend away from batteries.

Hopefully, the new Surface Pro 5 will also iron out the problems that have plagued a lot of Surface Pro 4s and Surface Books. That would be a nice coat of “fresh paint” for customers.

Surface Book 2 also in the works

Surface Book 2: The Sequel has also been greenlighted, possibly with a June, 2016 premiere or maybe it will be 2017. That’s the problem with rumors–they have no consistency or reliability. Let’s hope these new devices do.

It would make more sense for it to be 2017, so that the new Kaby Lake processor is ready for rollout. That might edge these machines into becoming the souped-up powerhouses they could be.

Or, it could be as soon as June, 2016, to coincide with a Windows 10 update.

Microsoft has a part of its site dedicated to Surface art and artists. This is one of the videos from that, featuring Mulga, an illustrator/designer/muralist.

 

Microsoft: Power cord recall for Surface Pro 1, 2, and 3

Microsoft recall of power cords for Surface Pro 1-3

Due to overheating concerns, Microsoft  issued a voluntary recall of AC power cords for the Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, and Surface Pro 3, if they were sold before March 15, 2015 in the U.S., and July 15, 2015, anywhere outside the U.S. The recall was announced on Jan. 21, 2016.

According to the company, the overheating can be triggered by cords that are tightly wound or bent, which can get damaged that way and become a fire hazard. They stress that the problem affects only a very few users. But, for safety, they recommend that you no longer use your existing cord, regardless if it appears damaged or not.

To fill out the form to get your replacement cord, go to the Microsoft page here.

The new Surface Pro power cords don’t have this issue, and they match the ones sold after March 15th, 2015 in the U.S. and July 15, 2015 elsewhere.

The recall does not apply to the power brick, which is the power supply, but only to the AC power cord, the part that attaches to the electrical outlet. Here’s a photo:

 

microsoft-recall

 

This problem and the recall ONLY affect the Pro, Pro 2, and Pro 3, not the Surface 3, Surface RT, Surface Pro 4, or Surface Book, and not to cords for docking stations for the Pro, the Pro 2, or Pro 3.

Microsoft says users should safely dispose of or recycle their existing cords in accordance with local regulations. You don’t return the cord to Microsoft, you just request a new one. All replacement cords will come directly from Microsoft. They will issue one new one per device.

Again o get your new AC power cord, go to this page on the Microsoft site.

This article has more info on the recall.

If you have an affected Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, or Surface Pro 3, please stop using  your existing power cord, dispose of or recycle it safely, and send go to the Microsoft recall page to order a new one.

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Surface Pro 4 Review: a step (or 1,024) forward

Surface Pro 4 Review: a go-anywhere drawing solution

by Tablets for Artists

microsoft surface pro 4 with surface pen

Type of Tablet

Surface Pro 4 Review: Convertible 2-in-1 with pen

The Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book (read our review) have arrived on the scene to a great deal of fanfare. Some artists who already have a Surface Pro 3 may be wondering if it’s worth getting the 4. Others may be trying to decide between the SP4 and the pricier Book.

The SP4 can become a laptop when you add the optional (purchased separately) Type Cover; it’s a tablet-first device, whereas the Book is a laptop-first device. The Pro 4 and the Book have the same screen resolution, a very high 271 ppi, though the Book’s screen is larger. Both the SP4 and Book are built from magnesium alloy and come in just one color, a silvery gray, though the SP4’s Type Cover adds a splash of color, with 6 colors. Only the Onyx (black) has the fingerprint sensor, though, to give you that Get Smart cred.

UPDATE: There have been many reports of short battery life and other issues and this takes a bit of glow off the Surface Pro 4 review, which would otherwise be very positive. The last updates issued by Microsoft were Dec. 2 and Dec. 17, which fixed some issues but not the power management. They did suggest a workaround, which you can read here, which is to put it into hibernate instead of sleep mode. Also, Windows Hello facial recognition drains the battery  and may be to blame for the issues. You can say bye-bye to Hello by turning it off in Settings> Accounts > Sign-in options. Will be following these issues and updating further.

UPDATE #2: Microsoft issued a Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book firmware update on Jan. 27, 2016. This one improves battery charging, Bluetooth, and the fingerprint sensor. Apparently it improves the sleep bug (the battery drain issue) but does not completely fix it. You should receive a notification on your device, and follow instructions. They should automatically install, but if you’re doing it manually, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Check for updates and follow the steps.

UPDATE #3: Microsoft released a slew (16!) updates in April, 2016, which apparently have corrected issues with screen flickering and waking up from sleep or hibernation, and other issues. Guess the early adopters were really beta testers. Anyway, it’s considerably improved. Note that they do not install all at once after you update.

List of updates at the Microsoft update page.

Specifications

Windows 10 Pro
Display: 12.3″
Digitizer: N-Trig
Screen Resolution: 2736 x 1824 pixels (271 ppi)
Processor: 6th-generation Intel Core i5; i7; entry-level model has Intel Core M3
RAM:  4 GB, 8GB, or 16GB
Hard Drive: models with 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, and1 TB
Ports: one USB 3.0, MicroSD slot
Core M3 model is fanless; others have hybrid cooling system
Kickstand allows posing at any angle
Glass trackpad 40% larger than SP3
8 MP rear camera, 5 MP front (SP3 had 5MP for both)
new Surface Pen and nib kit included
Pen has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity
graphics are all integrated, no discrete
Keyboard has fingerprint sensor (only the Onyx/black color)
weight 1.76 lbs. (786 g) tablet only; 2.44 lbs. including Type Cover and pen

What’s in the Box

Surface Pro 4
Surface Pen
Power Supply
Quick Start Guide
Safety and warranty documents

Surface Pro 4 vs. Surface Pro 3

As you can see, the Surface Pro 4’s screen is a bit bigger; its screen resolution is quite a bit higher, and it still manages to be a little lighter. Microsoft’s PixelSense screen is a mere 400 microns thick and uses Gorilla Glass 4; the Surface Pro 3 used Gorilla Glass 3 and did not have PixelSense, which pushes the optics closer to the screen. The footprint is the same on the SP4 and SP3, as is the 3:2 aspect ratio, which resembles a sheet of drawing paper. This aspect ratio, which emulates the Golden Mean, is generally better to draw on than the 16:9 tablets. The pen now magnetically snaps to either side of the tablet, instead of using a pen loop.

There is also no Start button on the tablet bezel in the SP4; there was in the SP3, but it’s less useful in Windows 10.

Here is a Surface Pro 3 vs. Surface Pro 4 comparison chart.

FeaturesSurface Pro 4Surface Pro 3Difference 
Dimensions11.5 by 7.93 by 0.33 inches11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inchessame
Thickness8.5 mmSP3 9.1SP4: 7% thinner
Screen size12.3"12"SP4: 5% larger
DigitizerN-trig, 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivityN-trig, 256 levels of pressure sensitivitySP4: 4x as pressure-sensitive
Resolution2736 x 1824
(4,990,464 pixels)
2,160 x 1,440
(3,110,400 pixels)
SP4: 60% more pixels
Screen ppi (pixels per inch)271ppi213 ppiSP4: 27% denser
ProcessorIntel gen. 6Intel gen. 4SP4: 30% faster
Weight (tablet only)1.69 lbs, 767g - Core M
1.73 lbs, 786g - i5 and i7
1.76 lbs, 798 gSP4: slightly lighter (4% for Core M, 2.5% for Core i5and i7)

 

surface pro 4 review

Surface Pro 4 with Surface Pen

The Surface Pro 4 with i5 with 128 or 256 GB of flash storage would be fine for most artists who use Photoshop or the whole Adobe Suite. But if you use really resource-intensive programs, then the i7 is better. For instance, Autocad 3D requires the i7.

The Book has an option with dedicated NVIDIA GeForce graphics, good for gaming or getting a boost in Photoshop performance.

Battery Life

9 hours of video for the 8GB Ram i5 with 256 GB storage

Portability

At 1.76 pounds, it’s very portable. If you add on the Type Cover (.64 lbs./292 g) and pen (21 g) then you get about 2.43 lbs., still not a bad load.

 

Surface Pen

surface pen surface book

The new Surface Pen for Surface Pro 4 (see it on Amazon) snaps to the sides of the tablet via magnets, unlike the Surface Pro 3 and earlier Surfaces which had a pen loop. The pen is much improved, now enabling 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Not only that, but it has its own nib kit , which has 4 tips that simulate artist pencil leads of HB (preinstalled), H, 2bB B, and a fine-point pen. The nib kit does not come with the pen that comes with the tablet. You can buy it separately (it’s inexpensive) or, if you buy an additional pen, the kit is included. The pen that comes with the Surface Pro 4 has a silver barrel, but the additional pens come in other colors.

The pencil leads have some friction and give some bite, somewhat like drawing on paper. Another boon is that you can buy a nib kit if your nibs wear down or get lost. The pen also has an eraser tip that feels cushiony. The previous pen had two buttons, one of which activated the eraser, but this new one has just one, which can open OneNote or Cortana, or take a screenshot if you double-click the button. Microsoft says the new pen has reduced latency–perhaps it won’t go into sleep mode when not touching the screen, so will be faster. The digitizer is N-trig, connected by Bluetooth, and takes an AAA battery that Microsoft says lasts a year. The pen itself (the barrel, not talking about inking) comes in 5 colors.

surface pen nib kit

new Surface Pen nib kit

Compare this to the previous Surface Pen, which delivered 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. Its single, preinstalled nib would wear out quickly and was not replaceable, forcing you to buy another pen. So if you’re ready to buy one, the new Surface Pen is the right choice. The new pen is backward compatible with the Surface Pro 3, though you’d still get 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, not the 1,024 of the Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book.

For some images and discussion of drawing with the Surface Pro 4 pen, and a comparison with Wacom pens, please see this review of the Surface Book. Here’s an image of the line from one of the pen tips. You can change the canvases as well as the brushes in your art program to get different effects with the different tips.

While this is cool, there are many, many brushes available for Photoshop and you can get any effect. Depending on your screen, though, you might not get the little “bite” of friction that the pencil nibs offer.

.surfacepentiptestBtip

 

Type Cover

surface pro 4 type cover

Surface Pro 4 Type Cover

The Type Cover has been redesigned and is also backward-compatible with Surface Pro 3. It has dedicated buttons for Windows shortcuts, media controls, and screen brightness. The Type Cover comes in 6 colors, and is lighter and slimmer than its predecessor. The keys are now spaced apart and have better travel for faster and more comfortable typing. The keys are sturdier than on the last version, and the keyboard has a better magnetic connection to the tablet part. The trackpad with 5-point multitouch is 40% larger, and now made of glass. You can fold back the cover so you can still use the tablet while it’s connected, or fold it over the tablet to protect the screen. The keys are backlit.

Only the Onyx (black) Type Cover uses Windows Hello, a fingerprint ID system that lets you log in to the computer and shop in the App Store. It costs a bit more than the non-fingerprint ID Type Covers (there is also a non-fingerprint-ID Onyx Type Cover). The Onyx fingerprint Type Cover can be pre-ordered from the Microsoft Store here.

surface dock for surface pro 4

Surface Dock

Surface Dock

The Surface Dock is optional. It can be used with the Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Book. It provides two additional ports: four USB 3.0 ports, and two 4K-capable DisplayPort outputs. The slender Surface Book lacks an Ethernet port, but the dock provides one. This can come in handy when traveling in places without steady Wi-fi.

Pros

new Surface Pen and nibs
faster processor
many configurations
hybrid cooling system (or fanless on the Core M) quieter

Cons

Still not ideal as a laptop replacement, due to top-heaviness
Opinions divided on N-trig

The Verdict

If you like N-trig, then this is a very promising computer with great specs for speed, a display that’s high-resolution with high contrast for deep blacks, lightweight, and it can do double duty as a laptop, though the Type Cover doesn’t feel as solid as a traditional laptop. For now, though there are still battery drain issues to be fixed, the workaround should provide release. Even taking that into account, this Surface Pro 4 review is mostly positive, and this sleek machine opens a new chapter in the Surface Pro story.

See more info or order from the Microsoft store

 

The iPad Pro is a competitor to the Surface Pro 4. Read our iPad Pro review.

end of Surface Pro 4 review

Microsoft Surface Pro 4: New Surface Pen offers more to artists

Microsoft new Surface Pen gets a big upgrade

microsoft surface pen with tip kitThe new Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is set to be released this October 26. It comes with an upgraded Surface Pen. The specs have been released, and the new pen, which is still N-trig, now delivers 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. It uses Bluetooth, as did the previous pen, and takes an AAAA battery. The back end functions as an eraser. Most interesting is that it has a tip kit with four tips corresponding to artists’ pencils: HB, B, H, and 2H. Looks like Microsoft is really going after the Wacom artist’s market. The tip kit is sold separately, but comes with any additional pens you buy. The pen no longer needs a loop to attach to the tablet as in the Surface Pro 3; it attaches to the Pro 4 via a magnet. The latency is reduced, making it less laggy. The pen’s accelerometer knows when you’re not touching the tablet and saves the battery; Microsoft claims the battery can last up to 18 months.

Surface Pen tip kit

You can use the new pen on Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and the new laptop, the Surface Book. We’ll be covering more developments.

microsoft surface pro 4 with surface pen

microsoft surface pro 4 with surface pen

Order the SP 4 with included Pen and Tip Kit.

Preorder the new Surface Pen with included Tip Kit.